Chapter IV. Against His Will

For a moment it seemed that Mr. Damon, as well as Mr. Hardley, felt disappointment at Tom's answer, for the eccentric man exclaimed:

"Bless my leather belt, Tom, but you aren't very keen on making a million dollars!"

"Oh, yes, I like to make money," the young inventor answered. "I guess you know that, as well as any one, for you've been with me on several trips. And I don't mind hard work, nor danger."

"I'll say you don't!" added Ned, as he thought of some of Tom's perilous voyages, among the diamond makers and in the caves of ice.

"Well, if you are anxious to make money, as I admit I am," said Mr. Hardley, "why can't you give me an answer now?"

"Because," answered Tom, "there are many things to be considered. Hunting for a treasure on the floor of the Atlantic isn't like going to some location on land, however wild or inaccessible it might be. Do you realize, Mr. Hardley, what a large difference in miles a small error in nautical calculations makes? We might go to the exact spot where you thought the wreck of the Pandora lies, only to find that we would have to hunt around a long time.

"I must think of that, and also think of my other business affairs. Then, too, there is my father. He is getting old, and while he is still active in the affairs of the company, particularly when it comes to taking up new lines of work, I do not like to think of leaving him, as I should have to, in case I went on this trip."

"Take him along!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "He's gone with us before, Tom."

"He's too old now," said the young inventor a bit sadly. "Father will never make another extended trip. But I will let you have my answer as soon as I can, Mr. Hardley, and I will give the matter considerable thought."

"I'm sure I hope you will, and also that you will consent to go," was the answer. "A million is not easily to be come at in these days after the Great War."

"I realize that," agreed Tom with a smile. "And you shall have my answer as soon as possible."

With this the visitor was forced to be content, and a little later he withdrew with Mr. Damon, the latter telling Tom that he would see him. again soon.

"Well, that was queer, wasn't it?" remarked Ned, when he and Tom were alone again.

"What was?" asked Tom, as though his mind was far away, as indeed it was.

"That this man should come in with his project to search for a sunken treasure wreck just as we were talking about how many millions were on the bottom of the ocean."

"Yes, it was quite a coincidence," Tom admitted.

"What do you think of it--and him?" asked Ned.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't take a great fancy to Mr. Hardley," Tom said. "I think he's altogether too cocksure, and takes too much for granted. Still I may misjudge him. Certainly he doesn't have a chance at a million dollars every day."

"Do you think you could get the treasure out of this wreck, Tom, if you could locate her?"

"Why, it's possible; yes. We proved that with the Boldero."

"Would you use the same submarine?"

"No, I think I'd have to rebuild it, or make an altogether new one. Possibly I might get one of Uncle Sam's and add some improvements of my own."

"Yes, you could do that," agreed Ned. "You've done so much for the government that it couldn't refuse you something reasonable, now that the war is over. Then do you think you'll go?"

"Really, Ned, I can't make up my mind yet. Now let's forget the Pandora and all the millions and get down to business. This Criterion company seems to me to want altogether too much, We'll have to trim their request down a bit. They owe the money and ought to pay it."

"Yes, I'll get after them," said Ned, and then he and his chum, as well as employer, plunged into a mass of business details.

It was the next afternoon, when Tom, following a strenuous morning of work, leaned back in his chair at his desk, that Mr. Damon was announced.

"Tell him to come in," ordered Tom, always glad to see his friend. "Wait a minute, though!" he called to the messenger. "Is any one with him?"

"No, sir; he is alone."

"Good! Then show him right in. I was afraid," said Tom to Ned, who was also in the office, "that he had Hardley with him. I'm not quite ready to see him yet."

"Then you haven't made up your mind about going for the treasure?"

"Not exactly. I shall, perhaps, this week."

"Bless my matchbox, Tom, but I'm glad to see you!" cried Mr. Damon, as he hastened forward with outstretched hand. "I was afraid you might be out. Now look here! What about my friend Hardley? He's very anxious to know your decision about going for that treasure, and I said I'd come over and sound you. I don't mind saying, Tom, that if you go I'm going too; if you'll take me, of course."

"Well, Mr. Damon, you know you'll always be welcome, as far as I am concerned," said the young inventor; "but, as a matter of fact, I don't believe I'm going."

"What? Not going to pick up a million dollars off the floor of the ocean, Tom? Bless my bank balance! but that's foolish, it seems to me."

"Perhaps it is, but I can't help it."

"What's your principal objection?" asked the eccentric man. "It isn't that you don't want the money, is it?"

"Not exactly."

"Then it must be that you object to Mr. Hardley personally." went on Mr. Damon. "I began to suspect that, Tom, and I want to say that you are wrong. Mr. Hardley is a friend of mine--a good friend. I have not known him long, but he strikes me as being all right. He had some good letters of introduction, and I believe he has money."

"Where'd he get it?" asked Tom.

"I don't know, exactly. Seems to me I heard him mention silver mines, or it may have been gold. Anyhow, it had something to do with getting wealth out of the ground. Now, Tom, I don't mind saying that I stand to make a little money in case this thing goes through."

"How's that, Mr. Damon?" asked the young scientist in surprise.

"Why, I agreed to bear part of the expense," was the answer. "I thought this was a pretty good scheme, and when Mr. Hardley came to me and told me of the possibilities I agreed to help him finance the expenses. That is, I have taken shares in the company he formed to raise his half of the expense money.

"Of course I thought of you at once when he spoke of having to search out a sunken wreck, and I proposed your name. He'd heard of you, he said, but didn't know you. So I brought you together and now--bless my apple pie, Tom! I hope you aren't going to turn down a chance to make a million and, incidentally, help an old friend."

"Well," remarked Tom, slowly, "I must admit, Mr. Damon, that I didn't think you'd go into a thing like this. Not that it is more risky than other schemes, but I thought you didn't care for speculation."

"Well, this sort of appealed to me Tom. You know--sunken wreck under the ocean, down in a diving bell perhaps, and all that! There's romance to it."

"Yes, there is romance," agreed Tom. "And hard work, too. If I undertook this it would mean an extra lot of work getting ready. I suppose I could use my own submarine. I could get her in commission, and make improvements more quickly than on any other."

"Then you'll go?" quickly cried the eccentric man.

"Well, since you tell me you are interested financially, I believe I will," assented Tom, but he spoke reluctantly. "As a matter of fact, I am going against my better judgment. Not that I fear we shall be in danger," he hastened to add; "but I think it will prove a failure. However, as Mr. Hardley will bear half the expense, and as by using my own submarine that will not be much, I'll go!"

"Then I'll tell him!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Hurray! This is great! I haven't had an exciting trip for a long while! Don't tell my wife about it," he begged Tom and Ned. "At least not until just before we start. Then she can't object in time. I'll have a wonderful experience, I know. This will be good news to Dixwell Hardley!"

And as Mr. Damon hastened away to acquaint his new friend with Tom's decision, the young inventor remarked to Ned:

"I'll go; but, somehow, I have a feeling that something will happen."

"Something bad?" asked the financial manager. "No, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But I believe we'll have trouble. I'll start on the search for the sunken millions, but rather against my better judgment. However, maybe Mr. Damon's luck and good nature will pull us through!"